Alexander Hamilton and Android Phones

So this article is making the news today:

Researchers find backdoor on ZTE Android phones

The summary is that “Two mobile phones, developed by Chinese telecommunications device manufacturer ZTE, have been found to carry a hidden backdoor, which can be used to instantly gain root access with a password, that has been hard-coded into the software.”

We’re awfully dependent on foreign manufacturing. In the 1980s, the concern was “The Japan That Can Say No.” Now it’s Chinese manufacturing OEM/ODMs embedding rogue code in our cellphones, routers, and other electronic infrastructure.

I don’t always agree with Alexander Hamilton, but he got it right in his “Report on Manufactures” in 1791:

Not only the wealth, but the independence and security of a Country, appear to be materially connected with the prosperity of manufactures. Every nation, with a view to those great objects, ought to endeavour to possess within itself all the essentials of national supply. These comprise the means of Subsistence, habitation, clothing, and defence.

The possession of these is necessary to the perfection of the body politic; to the safety as well as to the welfare of the society; the want of either is the want of an important Organ of political life and Motion; and in the various crises which await a state, it must severely feel the effects of any such deficiency.

He was right 220 years ago, and he’s right today. I hope that learning this lesson again only costs us economic pain and not something worse.


  1. What do you think is going to happen? Our military equipment can be blinded by small parts that don’t get made right intentionally or not. Do you think “hands off” a long term solution for things like this?